Tyger, Tyger still burning bright

What I know about tigers could be written on one hand (and I certainly wouldn’t be putting that hand out to one, calling ‘here kitty kitty’)  I’ve had a few tigers by the tail in my time, but here’s a list about what I know about tigers;- they are big cats, they are striped, they live in the jungle and they hunt, kill and they eat their prey.  I’ve always found tigers fascinating creatures though and I think that this stems back to being read a story of the tigers chasing each other around a tree so fast until all that was left of them was butter!  Then there was some unfortunate platform shoes I covered in tiger print in the 70s because I wanted to have ‘Tiger Feet’…but I digress.  The inspiration for this post came from a  painting I saw on the art blog Leslie White which features a wonderful painting of a white tiger – please check it out, – the tiger is just one of many great paintings painted by Leslie.

The Tyger was published in one of Blake‘s collections ‘Songs of Experience in 1794 and is probably one of his best known poems.  The original archaic spelling that Blake uses for ‘tiger’ has been kept usually when the poem appears in anthologies, Though it appears as ‘tyger’ in the title, elsewhere the usual spelling applies.  ‘Tyger’ endows  the animal with more mystique and enhances its exotic qualities.  The tyger is also used a s a metaphor for many things and there have been many interpretations that seem to change with the years.  Here’s some analysis of this deep and powerful poem, some of them stemming from William Blakes’s own life experience.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand? & what dread feet?………….      (The rest of the poem can be found here with thanks)

Image from here thanks

The poem, beautifully read by Samuel West, video by Justaudio2008 with thanks

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10 Responses to “Tyger, Tyger still burning bright”

  1. through a glass darkly Says:

    That poem just takes me back to primary school! That and MaCavity The Wonder Cat. Happy times. I’m sure we had to learn the poems off by heart and say them out loud, that’s probably why I still remember them now. Wonderful poem.

    • We definitely had to remember them, I don’t think it’s a bad thing either, as it improves your memory. Talking of cat poems ‘Five Eyes’ by Walter de la Mare springs to mind;-

      “While lean old Hans he snores away,
      till peep of light at break of day.
      Then up he climbs to his creaking mill,
      out come his cats all grey with meal.
      Jekkel, and Jessup, and one-eyed Jill.

      • through a glass darkly Says:

        Read your reply and saw I had put ‘Wonder Cat’! It should be MaCavity The Mystery Cat’. My English teacher would kill me! Love that de la Mare piece. Maybe you could a blog on cats in poems?

  2. is this something to do with winnie the pooh and his friends too :) i love the poem, how direct and descriptive, bringing back childhood joys of nursery rhymes. all the best lynda.

  3. aloneindreams Says:

    hey, nice…. went all way back to primary school……. had sort of stopped reading poems after leaving school….. :|

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